Negotiating Preparation and Delivery of a Manuscript

Today’s post takes a look at negotiating the contract provisions dealing with final preparation and delivery of a manuscript.

The “preparation & delivery” paragraphs usually contain the dates when the publisher expects the author to deliver the final Work, as well as the form and format the Publisher requires. Some contracts also include additional delivery requirements, such as indexes, glossaries, and internal artwork or graphics.

Many authors don’t consider delivery terms when negotiating a contract, even though these terms will create significant obligations for the author once the deal is signed. Read the delivery paragraphs carefully. Understand (and be sure you can comply with) the following obligations:

1. When is the manuscript due for delivery in final format? Delivery dates impact the book’s release date and the publisher’s catalog. Late delivery may prevent the publisher from hitting the other deadlines required to release the book on time. The publishing process contains many steps, and delays at any point can impact (or cancel) a release. Don’t agree to a delivery date you cannot meet. It’s better to ask for more time, and deliver early, than to need a last minute extension (which the publisher doesn’t have to give).

2. What form or format does the publisher require? Usually this is “Word or equivalent.” Know what the contract requires, and that you can comply, and be sure the wording isn’t ambiguous. Also, if the contract requires something other than “MSWord or equivalent,” you can ask the publisher to change the format to something reasonable. This is often a negotiable term.

3. What extra materials does the publisher expect you to deliver along with the manuscript? For most novels, this is “none,” but read the contract carefully. Some publishers expect the author to deliver an index, a table of contents, or internal graphics. These are all negotiable elements of the contract, too. Don’t assume, if the contract requires a table of contents, that you will have to provide it (or pay for its creation). You can ask the publisher to take on that obligation as part of negotiations.

Inclusion of extra materials is more common in nonfiction works (especially cookbooks) but if publishers use standardized contracts, the terms can creep into fiction agreements also. Read your contract carefully and negotiate any extra materials you can’t or don’t want to deliver.

4. Who pays for creation of extras like tables of contents, maps, and interior graphics? This is completely negotiable. Sometimes the author provides the extra materials (at the author’s expense). Other times, the publisher may pay for (or help with the cost of) maps and other graphics and extra content. Once again: the key is knowing to ask, in negotiations, and asking in a professional way.

Also: if licenses are needed for use of third-party content in the work (for example, use of song lyrics or other copyrighted material), the author is usually responsible for obtaining those permissions, at the author’s expense.

However, the contract’s delivery provisions which impact the publisher’s internal operations and publishing catalog are not typically negotiable. For example:

1. Existence of hard deadlines for delivery. The dates themselves are often negotiable. The need for a deadline is not. Publishers release a certain number of books per year, on predetermined dates. Once your book is “in queue,” it’s hard to change.

2. The publisher’s right to terminate (and recover advances) if the Work is not delivered on time and/or in acceptable form. Publishers may grant an extension, if asked, but won’t agree to a contract which requires extensions without limitation at author request. Once again, this relates to the publisher’s need to set release dates, and other dates, that don’t conflict with the rest of the catalog.

Ultimately, delivery dates and formats are a helpful part of the contract, because they establish benchmarks for both sides. When reading and negotiating your contract, make sure you know (and can meet) your obligations. Attention to the details up front will help establish a positive, and mutually beneficial, relationship down the line.

Have questions about this or other publishing legal topics? Feel free to ask in the questions or catch me on Twitter (@SusanSpann) using the #PubLaw hashtag!